Tag: hands-on experience

Hands-On Experience: The Texas MBA+ Leadership Program

From Sara Reeves, Senior Program Coordinator, MBA+ Leadership Program

In the Texas MBA program, leadership is earned both in and outside the classroom. While our students are in the classroom building the technical skills necessary for success in today’s ever-changing and complex business environments, the MBA+ Leadership Program works to support and compliment the curriculum with a range of enhanced opportunities. These programs and services are designed to allow Texas MBAs to individually tailor their leadership growth experience through coaching, seminars, and consulting projects to make real connections between classroom theory and practice, setting themselves apart from other MBA students.

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Fall 2014 - Networking Presentation in Dallas with MBA Plus Coach 1

Networking Presentation with an MBA+ Coach

MBA+ has carefully curated a roster of more than 40 communication, specialty, and executive coaches identified for their range of expertise and years of experience. This guarantees students across the six Texas MBA programs can find coaches perfectly attuned to their individual needs.

Many of our coaches have been with the program for a number of years and have developed a special affinity for McCombs’ students, going out of their way to support them. It is not uncommon to find our communication coaches up with teams throughout the night during case challenge season, helping students perfect decks as the sun sets and practice presentations as it rises.

“Communication coaches are one of the best resources of the MBA program. I was pleasantly surprised that they would meet our team off campus at all hours of the night. I found my coach very insightful and would definitely look to her for advice in the future.” – Mikhail Buczkiewicz, Full-Time MBA 2016

Seminars and Events

Truly successful leaders possess a mix of technical business acumen and those more elusive “soft” skills. MBA+ supports both aspects of leadership through industry-specific workshops (such as our fall “Corporate Valuations” and spring “Entrepreneurial Selling”), as well as personal development seminars on topics ranging from Inclusive Leadership to Resilience.

MBA+ also give students the opportunity to broaden their networks and horizons by hosting events that bring together students from across our six programs and leaders from business community, including our signature International Night and Annual Pitch Party.

MBA+ Projects

We recognize experience is often the best instructor and strive to offer Texas MBA students hands-on opportunities through our micro-consulting program. Teams of 4-6 students tackle real-world business problems for companies ranging from high-profile consulting firms to local start-ups. By recruiting a selection of projects each semester across industry, functional area, and scope, we ensure students are able to gain the specific skills and network contacts needed to advance their careers.

Spring 2015 Projects - Salesforce - Team Picture
Spring 2015 Salesforce Team
“The MBA+ project was a transformative experience. We worked together as a cohesive unit and delivered a high-impact deliverable. Above all, the project was a first rate networking opportunity with a choice employer and its leadership, which gave us a good sense for the firm’s culture.” – Christian Barjum, Deloitte, Full-Time MBA 2016
Spring 2015 Projects - Pegasystems - Team Picture
Spring 2015 Pegasystems Team
“The project helped my communication skills and gave me a valuable leadership opportunity. I was interested in working at Dimensional and I have taken a full time job with Dimensional after interning there this summer! The project allowed me an opportunity to gain more exposure to the company and increase my network there.” – Molly Bell, Dimensional, Full-Time MBA 2016

To Be or Not to Be … A Fellow

Pop quiz: What is the difference between student organizations, a.k.a. clubs, and the Texas MBA Fellows Programs?

According to everyone’s favorite Internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia, a fellow is “a member of a group of learned people who work together as peers in the pursuit of mutual knowledge or practice.” A club, on the other hand, is defined as “an association of two or more people united by a common interest or goal.”

To put it simply, Texas MBA Fellows Programs are hyper-clubs that offer students immersion learning experiences in a specific industry or function, such as Operations, Marketing, Finance, and Entrepreneurship. The programs are highly selective and typically comprised of only about 15-30 MBA students each year, which allows members to have special access to business leaders and, often, dedicated job and internship opportunities.

A short description of each McCombs program is below, but I encourage you to visit the Texas MBA Fellows Program webpage to learn more about the unique aspects of each one.

Board Fellows: McCombs Board Fellows places selected MBA students as non-voting board members of partner local non-profit organizations for one year. The purpose is to give talented and committed graduate business students the opportunity to work with and learn from non-profit leaders while contributing their time and business skills to benefit the community.

CleanTech Fellows: The CleanTech Fellowship is a selective leadership program that offers exceptional Texas MBA students the opportunity to deepen industry knowledge through hands on experiences in the clean tech world. Once selected, each CleanTech Fellow spends 10-15 hours per week working with a company of his or her choosing and meeting with the other fellows to check in, attend speaker series and discuss developments in the industry.

Corporate Finance Fellows: Founded by Intel, Corporate Finance Fellows brings together selected students to work in a team on a specific project designed by Intel and other corporate partners. Each student participates in a 3 credit hour practicum course during the spring semester, followed by a summer internship sourced by Corporate Finance Fellows’ corporate partners.

Marketing Fellows: The Marketing Fellows program gives selected McCombs MBA students committed to pursuing leadership in marketing the opportunity to develop their marketing acumen and management skills through a combination of focused curriculum and consulting projects. The program is student led and managed with support from Center for Customer Insight and Marketing Solutions (CCIMS) and Marketing faculty.

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Sigma Fellows: Sigma Fellows provides selected MBA students interested in pursuing leadership in the functional areas of operations, supply chain or information management the opportunity to develop their management and leadership skills through a comprehensive integrated learning opportunity. Through a combination of focused classroom discussions and consulting projects, Sigma Fellows develop a better understanding of real-world challenges and enhance the Texas MBA experience within the three Sigma disciplines.

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Venture Fellows: Venture Fellows was founded in 1999 to provide selected McCombs MBA students the unique opportunity to work with venture capital and private equity funds. The Venture Fellows program consists of a two-semester internship component and weekly meetings with a guest speaker from the venture capital or private equity community to discuss relevant industry topics and experiences.

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Venture Labs Fellows: Texas Venture Labs (TVL) offers a combination of focused curriculum, hands-on learning and a speaker series to students with a passion for learning about the entrepreneurial and funding processes. Through a rigorous recruitment process, 30 graduate students from the Schools of Business, Engineering, Law, and Natural Sciences are selected to participate in the program, during which they work on cross-disciplinary teams to accelerate the formation and launch of 5-10 startups selected through an equally rigorous process. TVL teams provide immediate impact and value to the partner companies for which they consult.

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I can say from experience that joining a Fellows Program has added practical value to my McCombs MBA journey. As a Marketing Fellow, I have (so far) been able to advise American Airlines about how to design and promote its in-flight entertainment package, offer ideas about engaging Hispanic Millennials to the Dr. Pepper Snapple Group and design a marketing campaign for Chipotle catering.

The best part about the immersion aspect of the program is how truly interested the companies have been in our thoughts, ideas, and recommendations. Having the ear of executives from Fortune 500 companies is not something every MBA student (or working professional, for that matter) receives, and I am so thankful to McCombs for giving me the opportunity on a weekly basis.

P.S. Although not technically Fellows Programs, the MBA Student Investment Funds (MBA Investment Fund & Real Estate Investment Fund) are equally elite and provide McCombs students with rigorous, hands-on experience in the school’s own private investment company.

Hands-on Learning at McCombs: MBA+ Consulting Projects

The Dow Team, MBA+ Consulting Project, Fall 2014

The Dow Team, MBA+ Consulting Project, Fall 2014

The MBA+ Leadership Program connects Texas MBA students from all programs with thriving companies looking to overcome challenges through short-term micro-consulting projects. This past fall, Texas MBAs worked on 40+ projects with over a dozen major companies including Clorox, FABERNOVEL, Strategy&, OriGen Biomedical, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Big Red, & Dow.

“[For our project], we looked at venture capital investment trends in energy, transportation, healthcare, finance, and media/entertainment.  We then looked at how these investment trends were indicative of trends in the various industries and how FABERNOVEL can work with potential clients to address issues they may be facing in these changing industries.
I think that we had a great project experience. We each were able to learn a lot more about trends in industries with which we were not necessarily familiar, and the client was very easy to work with so we had a lot of opportunity to guide the final output and be successful.”

Matthew Cohen, MBA ’16, Team Leader, FABERNOVEL project.

Team Leader, Matthew Cohen & the FABERNOVEL Team, MBA+, Fall 2014

Team Leader, Matthew Cohen (left) & the FABERNOVEL Team, MBA+ Consulting Project, Fall 2014

MBA+ projects are a great way to help students bridge the gap between concepts they are learning in the classroom and practice in the business world. Students are able to immediately apply what they are learning, as well as gain experience in a new industry or functional area.  They are also able to get an inside glimpse into companies they might work for in the future to get an idea of the company’s culture and vision.

On the flip side, companies are able to identify students who are a good fit for their internship and full-time positions.  It’s one of the earliest avenues for students to meet company representatives and practice their networking and relationship building skills. Since they are team-based, projects are also a great way for students to meet their classmates and expand their personal network. The MBA+ Program also helps students gain leadership competencies such as accountability, team-building, influencing, negotiating, conflict management, leveraging diversity, dealing with ambiguity, written and oral communication skills, problem-solving, decision-making, resilience, and more!

How to Tackle the MBA+ Experience

Ah, the MBA+ projects… these certainly constitute a range of emotions from us MBA students.  For those who haven’t heard, MBA+ projects are mini consulting projects that you can complete during the semester with a variety of companies.  Yes, that’s right, you can elect to do these on top of your already busy schedule, but there are definitely a few very important reasons why you should!  In this post I’ll talk a bit about my experience and my tips for the process.

At first, I was on the fence about doing an MBA+ project since I didn’t really know what to expect from my schedule and class commitments.  I mulled it over for a week or so and then realized that since I am not pursuing Consulting, I-Banking, or other major corporations (so basically the bulk of anybody coming to campus) that my recruiting schedule would be much less busy than many others’ in the fall so to just go for it – and I’m certainly glad I did.  The first step in the process is applying to projects (up to 10), and then your team will be selected by the companies sponsoring the projects.  Knowing where I did not want to recruit was how I selected my projects, so I focused only on Austin based start-ups and was matched with FreqSho.

FreqSho is an Austin based music discovery start-up that aggregates artist info from various web sources into a one stop shop for avid music fans.  When we started, the company was working off of a minimum viable product (MVP) and was working on launching a beta version.  Our task as a team was to help create the go-to-market strategy for launching FreqSho.  Given that I have an interest in transitioning from a background in Corporate Finance to Strategy & Marketing, the scope was perfect for me.  I have literally zero experience with marketing, and now I have some tangible skills, understanding, and stories to take with me into interviews.  Throughout the process I was able to learn more about utilizing primary research, digital advertising (Facebook, Google Display, and Search Engine Optimization), and project management skills.  Plus, I was able to score free Sam Smith concert tickets from my teammate and new friend, Gedy!

What to do:

  1. If you have a business background but are a career or function switcher like me, you should do an MBA+ project. Switching functions has been more difficult than I imagined and the MBA+ project is the only tangible experience I have in marketing compared to some class mates who have tons.
  2. If you don’t have a business background at all, you should do an MBA+ project. Start building skills and having interview stories aligned with your future goals
  3. If one of your target companies is sponsoring a project, you should do an MBA+ project. This is free networking, folks.  This is especially true for you aspiring consultants out there!
  4. Be selective! Pick either companies that you are interested in working for or projects that you are passionate about.  If nothing really strikes your fancy, you aren’t going to enjoy the process and it won’t be a great experience for you or your team.
  5. Consider your recruiting schedule and other commitments. Don’t over extend yourself unless you know it will be worth it.
  6. Get excited about meeting people outside of your cohort that you might not otherwise get to know

What not to do:

  1. Do not let FOMO (fear of missing out) get you. If you aren’t very interested in any of the projects, don’t do one just because it seems like all of your friends are doing one.  You will not fail the MBA program by not participating in an MBA+ Project
  2. Do not wait until the last 2 weeks to really get into the nitty-gritty of the project. This is much easier said than done.  Since these projects aren’t graded, it can be easy to let the tasks fall to the backburner throughout the semester, but it makes for an unpleasant rush to the finish.
  3. Do not stress too much. Like all things in life, some of the projects will inevitably have better sponsors and scopes than others.  If you end up on what turns out not to be your dream project use it as a learning example (great for those behavioral interviews!) and make the most of it.  Again, you will not fail the MBA program!

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